The world’s biggest free software repository is in decline
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Garen Bajaj is the co-founder of Gnar, a free software community that makes it easy to share code, documents, images and music among other things.
He’s also the founder and CEO of open source group Free Software Foundation, which aims to protect free software from the clutches of corporations and governments.
Bajaj recently spoke with ABC News about the state of free software in the United States and how it compares to other countries around the world.
Q: How are you seeing the free software movement in the U.S. evolving over the last decade?
Garen Babaj: We’re in the middle of a major change in the free market, and we’re in a big transition from the past to the future.
And it’s really changing our relationship with software.
The first thing that happened was when software companies began using proprietary technologies, like proprietary hardware.
This was a very positive development.
It meant that people who were used to having proprietary hardware were no longer using proprietary software.
It was a big change in how companies made money.
The fact that we had to pay licensing fees for proprietary software made it harder to keep things free.
Q, What changed that for you?
G: The second thing that really changed our relationship to software was that the commercial software companies started using software to keep their money, and they started to charge us royalties.
It made it very difficult for us to be able to make software for free.
We would spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a software and to make it available for free and to support our users.
We couldn’t do that anymore.
The third thing was that software companies would start to pay for software licenses, so that we would have to buy licenses from them.
The fourth thing was the patent wars.
We had to buy our patents in order to get them for free, and that made it really difficult to do.
Q (in Mandarin): You mean, they would make software available for us?GAB: Yes, they did.
Q: What were they paying for that?
Gab: The software they made free for us was the software that they made for them.
What did you think of that?
It seemed like it was the end of an era for free software.
Bajab: Well, I think that it’s very interesting that they are charging us royalties for the software they make for us.
It’s very odd.
The GPL, the free-software license, gives them the right to pay us for the use of the code we make.
The reason for that is that the GPL allows them to use code that they make freely for other people.
How would you describe that?
Bajas: We would be using our code for free for them, and then they would pay us royalties on it.
Q.: Is it free for the people who use it?
Babajas : Yes, for the users.
Q:(in Mandarin) No, the users are paying for the code, the people pay for the license.
Babaaj: No, they don’t.
They pay for that license.
Q.: How many people do you think are paying that?
Bajabajs: I think it’s between 100 and 200 people.
Q.(in Mandarin), 100?
Q.(in English): You don’t know how many people?
B: There are about 100 people.
(In Mandarin) And it is about the same number as the users who use the software.
Q:(in English) There are 200?
Q(in Mandarin)- And you don’t think they pay?
B.ajaj: I don’t see that there is a significant difference.
There are not many people who are paying.
The amount of people who pay is about what we see in the other parts of the world, like the U, S and Canada.
Q.- Which other countries?
B:(in Arabic) Canada, India, South Africa, Europe, Latin America.
Q- What are they paying you for?
B:- In Canada, for example, the license for our software is worth about $25,000.
It costs us about $3,000 to get the software, which is about 3 times what we charge for it in the rest of the countries.
Q:- What’s your reaction when you see people making millions of dollars off free software?
B.: I’m very happy when they do that, because we’re not going to get anywhere if we don’t help them to do that.
We can’t do it by ourselves.
We have to work with other people to do it.
That’s why I think this is such a good moment for free development, for people to use free software and develop for free on their own time, and I hope we’re going to see a lot more of that happening in the future, especially in the developing world.
It makes us more confident
Garen Bajaj is the co-founder of Gnar, a free software community that makes it easy to share code, documents, images…
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